What all the parties involved politely referred to as an historical "mistake" was corrected on Sept. 10 when the Siksika Nation celebrated the settlement of a land claim that dates back to 1910.
Chief Adrian Stimson and Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Robert Nault were present at a ceremony at the band's new business centre to mark the settlement of the 5,067 hectares (12,522 acres) claim.
The settlement for the surface rights of the lands provided Siksika with approximately $82 million in compensation for the damages and losses suffered as a result of a faulty land surrender. The money will be held in trust as an investment. Interest from that trust fund will be used to finance community projects.
In a background document prepared by Siksika, it is reported that Inspector of Indian Agencies J.A. Markle arranged a surrender meeting on June 15, 1910-33 years after Treaty 7 was signed and 31 years after the Siksika reserve was established. At that meeting, Markle failed to inform the Native partners to the agreement that the acreage covered by the claim was included in the surrender.
Siksika has filed suit that the entire surrender was invalidated, but agreed to work out a compensation arrangement on the "acreage discrepancy" on a without prejudice-basis to the lawsuit, which has still yet to be settled.
The agreement was ratified by the community members in a series of votes conducted at public meetings in January and February.
"This settlement represents the culmination of many years of hard work and persistence by the leadership of Siksika, the Elders, the Siksika Claims Commission and our legal and technical team of advisors," said Stimson. "We have closed another important chapter in our history by concluding a settlement of the Acreage Discrepancy (Surface) Claim. There was a high turnout of eligible voters and over 85 per cent voted for this settlement that is fair and lasting and will ensure economic certainty for future generations."
The Indian Affairs minister commended the officials on both sides who worked together to come to an agreement.
"The Siksika Nation and Canada have successfully reached a final settlement that not only honors Canada's lawful obligation, but will also provide the nation with enhanced opportunities for economic development now and in the future," said Nault. "To manage the compensation, the Siksika Nation has established the Acreage Discrepancy Claim Trust Account which will ensure a stable economic foundation for future generations, while providing a better quality of life for members today. The settlement shows what can be achieved when Canada and First Nations work together to address the grievances of the past through good faith negotiations."
Siksika councillor Eldon Weasel Child holds the land claim portfolio.
"This was a very unique process," Weasel Child told Sweetgrass. "The federal government came to the table and actually helped us get creative on settling this."
Weasel Child said the band first submitted the claim in 1958. It was caught up in the system until 2000.
Chief Stimson said Nault was helpful in motivating departmental officials to speed things up. Senior Indian Affairs specific claims negotiator Sharman Glynn, who attended the ceremony, confirmed that fact.
"This was done in record-breaking time," Glynn said.